Tat Tuesday: Artist celebrates love for art, grandmother’s life through tattoo

Kaiya Little, Life and arts desk editor

Eyes traveling the length of a mirror, Stacy Nguyen surveys the space beneath the crease of her elbows where twin typewriter-style numbers stand stark against her skin.

When placed together, the two tattoos pinpoint Nguyen’s childhood home in Vietnam. The coordinates conjure memories of fumbling through craft supplies under her grandmother’s watchful eyes as a future of charcoal-stained fingers and a thick layer of acrylic paint took shape.

“Everyone has a macaroni-and-glue (art project) at some point in their life,” studio art sophomore Nguyen said. “She was the one that was actually holding my wrists and guiding me.”

From the earliest stages of her artistic endeavors, Nguyen said that her grandmother consistently pushed her to consider her abilities seriously. Two nights before the start of her freshman year of college, Nguyen decided to get her first tattoo as a nod to that bond — a memorialization of her grandmother and childhood.

“She is the mother figure in my life,” Nguyen said. “(She taught me) everything I know. … She supported my art career by buying me my first pack of crayons. … It’s a tribute to her.”

Throughout her life, Nguyen said her grandmother lit up every room and spoke with a genuineness that complemented her tough love. The presence of her tattoo serves to keep those feelings and a piece of home close forever.

“Because (the tattoo is) on either side of my body, when I have my arms straight down, (it’s like) a little hug,” Nguyen said. “It means a lot, especially (because) when I look down on my body, that’s the first thing I see. … If I feel bad and talk bad about my body to myself, she wouldn’t like that. It’s a little reminder.”

After one year, Nguyen’s tattoo collection reached 11 unique pieces referencing her family and her enjoyment for other artists’ work. Nguyen said her love for the tattooing medium — and the differences it holds compared to her usual portfolio — enhances the significance of her tattoo selections as she looks to get more in the future.

“The more I keep going back and talking to the tattoo artists and seeing the heart in this industry, it really pulls me in.” Nguyen said. “I feel like it really is a community, because I’ve always said, art is a really lonely realm in life. … No one can draw something for you. … It’s really special to have someone trust you enough to have a piece of your art on their body forever.”